5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society

The following arguments are never going away, ever.
5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society

Most people think that, ideally, an argument is like a condom: You use it once and, if you're smart and know what you're doing, throw it away and forget about it when you're done, with both participants satisfied with the conclusion. But that's not true. In reality, arguments are like a vibrator: You can use them over and over and over again, getting better each time, falling more and more in love with how it makes you feel until oh shit you just died of old age and never stopped humping that mold of Iron Man's fist.

The point is, the following arguments are never going away, ever. Thanks for reading my introduction.

"Has Comedy Gone Too Far?"

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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One of the more popular "hot takes" these days is over how offensive any given comedian might be. It happened after Louis C.K. told a bunch of pedophile jokes during an SNL monologue, it happened after Trevor Noah got named as the next host of The Daily Show, and it even happens all the way over in merry old England, where Nigel Farage had to swoop in and defend Paul Eastwood after the latter made some jokes at a U.K. Independence Party conference, and you're fucking with me, right, England? You really have people named "Nigel Farage"?

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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Tell me he looks like this.

The core idea, of course, is that we need to keep an eye on the jokes people are telling, and if a comedian goes too far, well then we'll ... um ... shoot them? Ban them from comedy? Jeez, easily offended people, what is it you want? Why can't you just grow a thicker skin so we can stop having these arguments?

Why We'll Be Having This Argument Forever

Because if that happened, then comedians would just find a different thing to say, a more sensitive subject to mock, and the whole system would start all over again. Do you think it's a coincidence that the most famous and popular comedian in the world just told a bunch of jokes about pedophilia? Or that virtually every famous comedian in history -- George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Silverman -- has at some point been criticized for being too offensive?

It turns out that a big part of comedy is looking at things from a fresh perspective, and if that perspective is at all interesting, then, almost by definition, it's going to frustrate or infuriate some people. Pushing the line is, in fact, their job.

But then there's the flip side, which is a bit different and also worth mentioning ...

"Are People Too Sensitive?"

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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If half the Internet is people trying to explain how offended they were by a thing, the other half is people trying to get those people to shut up because they're afraid of censorship. You can see this stuff happening in video games, movies, music -- pretty much all art, but I'm going to stick to comedy, since it's already been brought up, and talk for a bit about Jerry Seinfeld. He recently complained in an interview that when it comes to crossing the line, they "keep moving the lines in for no reason." He has a joke about how people act like they're so important when they're on cellphones, except:

"You don't seem very important the way you scroll through them like a gay French king."

... and he's frustrated that people got offended by that, since obviously such sensitivity makes comedy impossible.

Why We'll Be Having This Argument Forever

First off, I envy Seinfeld for having the confidence to say, when one joke of his doesn't land, it means there's something fundamentally wrong with comedy. A more insecure person may have wondered if "like a gay French king" is less of a punchline and more like the mish-mash of nonsense imagery your senile uncle may scream at a confusing political figure. He may have wondered if a 61 year-old man bitching at college kids about how they use their newfangled smarty-phones was less than cutting-edge. If I, for example, were in his position, I would've wondered if a multi-billionaire with an airplane hangar full of Porches may be sorta out of touch, but that wavering confidence is why I'm not comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld.

Anna Webber/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Also, I'm a talentless piece of shit, but it's mainly the confidence thing.

It may seem like I picked a stupid example, but the issue is almost always exactly the same: "Why are you offended now? This was fine before! Stop changing the rules!" The justification is that the rules change for a good reason. More people are getting offended for more reasons because society is getting better at listening to people. If you notice a change, it's not because people are getting more sensitive; it's because they're getting less afraid to say so when they are.

Imagine you have a roommate who shits on your coffee table every day. He does this for years, and you just put up with it, because he's a muscle-headed fuck-monster. Fists like canned hams. Arms like nuclear submarines. Then, one day, you get a promotion and, feeling great about yourself, walk in and say, "David? You need to stop shitting on the coffee table."

"Why? I like shitting on the coffee table."

"Because it's disgusting, David. You have to stop doing it."

"You never had a problem before!"

And so on. The point is, don't be mean to people for standing up for themselves. It's hard enough as it is without you acting like a turd over it.

"Are Our Traditions Dying?"

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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Hey, did you hear about the couple in Australia that are threatening to get a divorce if their country legalizes same-sex marriage? Their argument is a pretty old one: Their marriage won't be the same if gay people can do it, so they may as well chuck it out. They're defending a tradition.

The gay marriage thing is widely seen as pretty crazy, but what's weird to me is how it uses the same logic as so many other traditions that aren't just a weird excuse for hate, like changing Christmas decorations and techniques for making beer and sewing clothes. The justification, in the words of one practitioner of a dying craft, is that he "recognized the skill was becoming extinct and so was keen to pass it on."

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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"Global warming has extinguished all winter, but still we must preserve the tradition of snowboarding."

There's a real fear that old skills, traditions, and knowledge will be lost forever. And fighting against that fear is a bunch of protesters, scientists, or even the economy insisting that nobody cares.

Why We'll Be Having This Argument Forever

Because the urge to keep traditions is central to our species' survival. "Tradition" is a tough concept to research, so scientists aren't 100 percent sure on all the details, but they are pretty sure that it's closely tied to the concept of fear. People are afraid of changing traditions because they're worried about being punished. Which, if you'll excuse me, makes the most goddamn sense out of anything I've ever heard: I'd imagine most traditions started as pragmatic survival strategies (like ritualistically cooking a meal) and were given that extra bit of "magical" importance to make sure that people kept following them.

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society

"Is Dead?"

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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Hey, did you know the novel is dead? So is poetry and rock 'n' roll. Oh, and it turns out that the novel died again four years after it died that first time. And even though superhero movies aren't quite dead, we're all pretty excited for that to happen, provided movies themselves don't die first. And yes, one of those articles is, in fact, mine.

You might say, "Well, that's just because it's a good title for an article" -- but why is it a good title for an article? What about hearing that a certain type of movie or rock 'n' roll or literature is "dead" is so enticing? Why do we care? Won't we just one day notice that there aren't any more superhero movies and say, "Oh yeah, I guess they just make war movies now," and go off to see that? Why do people talk about this so much?

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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"This free content is so bad that I wish I had paid for it so I could demand my money back."
There, commenters. I wrote a zinger for you.

Why We'll Be Having This Argument Forever

Because we fucking can. Thanks to technology and social progress, more people have more leisure time than ever before. So they're getting more analytical of their jerk-off habits, their TV-watching cred. Think about how much your opinions of pop culture can mean. You can build entire careers out of pointing your finger at things that other people made and then saying words about them. I mean, look at me. No, wait, don't look at me, I'm hideous.

We care more about our entertainment now than we ever have, and it's more important than it ever has been. What does it mean? How is it affecting us? And, most importantly, what happens if it goes away?

"Is This New Technology Going To Ruin Our Brains?"

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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There's a very good reason I saved this entry for last: It may send you running and screaming from your computer. Because, you see, your technology is ruining you. Not only in the normal ways (using the GPS in your smartphone shrinks your hippocampus because you don't need to remember where you are anymore, and storing phone numbers in your phone atrophies the "remember phone numbers" part of your brain, probably) ...

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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A hippocampus.

... but in bigger, more nefarious ways as well: One neuroscientist theorizes that technology is moving too quickly for our brains to keep up -- we've outpaced our own evolution. Oh no!

Why We'll Be Having This Argument Forever

A few years ago xkcd pointed out that, at the turn of the 20th century, we were all pretty sure that letter-writing was going to destroy the art of the conversation and that everything was moving too fast for us to keep up. But I think there's an even weirder point here.

We worry about technology making us lazy because it outsources part of our brain, right? Like we used to do X with our brains ("X" being "remember how long it took to boil an egg" or whatever) but now we have an app in our phone that does it, and therefore we are lazy. But the problem with that line in logic is that it's not just apps on our phones -- every single piece of technological advancement in human history has made life easier for us. We invented writing so that we didn't have to memorize everything; we could write it down and free up our brains for the heavy-thinking required to invent polio vaccines and nuclear power. We invented horses so that we didn't have to run everywhere we wanted to go and wouldn't be too out of breath when we got there. Hell, we invented division of labor so that everyone could pick one or two things and be good at them: The construction worker doesn't need to know how to fix a car because he has a mechanic, and the mechanic doesn't need to know how to perform surgery because he has a surgeon, and the surgeon doesn't need to know how to teach American History because he has a school teacher ...

The point is, the fundamental assumption at the center of the "technology makes us lazy" panic is wrong: When you take a responsibility away from a human being, they just find something else to do way, way better. I'm pretty sure that faster computers are going to give us better medicine, word processors are going to give us better books, and newer, fancier sex toys are going to, ya know ... sex stuff, but better.

5 Debates That Will Outlast Human Society
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Sex stuff.

My point is, we can't let this stuff distract us from the real threat. Which is Terminators.

JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. If you want. It's not a rule or anything.

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For more from Sarge, check out 5 Mistakes You'll Make The Next Time You Move and 7 Insanely Dark Reality Shows We'd Probably Watch .

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